Singapore show: Asian Aerospace 2002 Report

Aviation International News » April 2002
May 15, 2008, 7:24 AM

“So this is the post-September 11 face of the international airshow.” That was probably the dominant thought for many visitors to Asian Aerospace 2002 (held February 26 to March 3) as they got in line to have their cars inspected from hood to trunk before having to pass through top-level airport-style screening to enter the show site. With Singapore authorities having broken up an active local Al Qaeda terrorist cell just two months earlier, AA2002 organizers clearly felt obliged to err on the side of caution in spending some $1.1 million on new security measures. Though the screening undoubtedly made the show somewhat less user-friendly, few visitors felt inclined to question the necessity for putting the show on a higher state of alert.

According to show organizer Reed Exhibition’s president, Jimmy Lau, budget cuts rather than security concerns were the main reason behind the slight downturn in exhibitors, with 27 companies pulling out after September 11 and resulting in a 3,200-sq-ft reduction in the total exhibit space. However, at 22,000 attendees from 65 countries, the number of trade visitors passing through the gates showed no decline on the tally from the previous show in February 2000.

Just under 900 companies from 37 countries brought their wares to display, benefiting from the presence of some 140 official national visitor delegations. Organizers logged approximately $3.2 billion worth of business deals announced at the show. More than 55 aircraft participated in AA2002’s flying and static displays.

Among the OEMs gathered in Singapore (including 70 of the world’s top 100 aerospace firms), opinions varied as to just how long and how deep the current civil-sector downturn would prove to be. The more bullish felt that demand has already started picking up markedly and that manufacturers could see a return to growth as soon as the second quarter of this year. Others felt that they have to expect at least flat trading conditions through the end of next year.

All agreed that the better placed companies these days have fingers firmly dipped in both civil and military pies, with many finding that increases in defense spending are offsetting losses in the air-transport market. With the notable exception of the still-stalled Japanese economy, most of the Asia/Pacific region is now viewed as being fertile ground for fresh sales growth–a factor that clearly sheltered the AA2002 show in terms of both exhibitor and visitor presence.

No Big Showstoppers

Predictably, in view of the air-transport sector’s trials and tribulations over the past six months, major airframers Boeing and Airbus did not–unusually–steal all the airshow limelight. In fact, the only blockbuster announcement from a major airline was the $1.5 billion decision by United Arab Emirates flag carrier Emirates to select General Electric/Pratt & Whitney Engine Alliance GP7000 turbofans to power its 22 Airbus A380s. The airline, which holds options for 10 more of the super-large transports, has hitherto been a loyal engine customer of Rolls-Royce.

Boeing took the opportunity to confirm industry speculation that the design definition phase of its Sonic Cruiser program has been allowed to slip by up to 12 months in the belief that the current airline business conditions have inevitably softened the sense of urgency for this high-speed, long-range aircraft.

Nonetheless, the U.S. airframer did set tongues wagging by unveiling a model of a contemplated new variant of its 747. The 747-400XQLR is a proposed environmentally friendlier and longer-range  747-400ER. The ER is due to enter service in October, offering nonstop sectors of 7,760 nm. QLR stands for “quiet, longer range.”

If launched, the -400XQLR would fly 360 nm farther than the -400ER, allowing nonstop flights between Singapore and Denver, for example. Boasting an 11,000-lb increase in maximum takeoff weight (to 921,000 lb), the new model would meet QC2 noise standards (rather than the QC4 standard of existing 747-400s), putting it on a par with the Airbus A340-600 and the new A380. Projected cruise speed for the -400XQLR would be Mach 0.86.

For the casual observer of the -400XQLR model on display in Singapore, the most obvious differences were the absence of the 747’s trademark winglets and the use of modified engine cowls to further attenuate exhaust noise. The Boeing designers have opted for raked wingtips like those featured on the 767-400 and 777.

Airbus countered Boeing’s proposed 747-400XQLR by reminding airline representatives that its new A340-500 will be available for service entry sooner and will also have nonstop range between the U.S. West Coast and southeast Asia. The -500 prototype made an eve-of-airshow first flight from the manufacturer’s Toulouse, France headquarters on February 11.

The European airframer was among those who have already identified tangible signs of recovery among airlines. It predicts a 20-year requirement for some 4,800 airliners with more than 70 seats in the Asia/Pacific region.

At the Singapore show, Italian aerospace group Alenia announced it has taken a significant stake in the A380 program with the award of an 18-year contract to design and manufacture a three-part, fully fitted center fuselage section. This will account for 4 percent of the overall airframe value and will employ about 1,000 people, including subcontractors.

Separately, Honeywell has been selected to provide the A380’s secondary electric power distribution system and integrated safety and surveillance system in a 15-year contract valued at up to $710 million. Following on from last year’s $2 billion deal to supply the A380 landing gear, Goodrich announced a new contract from Boeing to supply wheels and brakes for all current and in-development 747-400s.

Ordinarily, airshows are times of heightened public tension in the eternal battle for market share between Airbus and Boeing, but the unwavering post-September 11 consensus over the need for increased airline security has clearly nurtured a degree of highly uncharacteristic cooperation. Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of services John Banbury reported during the show that the rivals have been jointly working with airlines to facilitate the installation of new cockpit doors by April next year under FAA requirements.

New-generation cockpit-door technology was much in evidence at AA2002, with companies such as Israel Aircraft Industries, Timco and AIM Aviation showcasing expedited upgrades. Timco and AIM Aviation have both just selected Honeywell’s Spectra fiber for their reinforced doors.

Honeywell also announced a new alliance with identification technology specialist Visionics. In the first instance, the deal will focus on the harnessing of Visionics’ biometric face-recognition systems.

Also on the AA2002 security beat was Smiths Aerospace, which was gauging market interest in its new Sentinel walk-through explosives-detection device for airports. The equipment has been designed to identify even small traces of explosives on passengers’ skin, baggage or clothing.

Regional Growth Hopes Bear Fruit

Regional aircraft manufacturers have long held high hopes for a surge in demand around the Asia/Pacific region. During AA2002, these expectations started to bear fruit.

Bombardier announced follow-on orders from Japanese carrier All Nippon for a pair of its 56-seat Dash 8Q-300 twin turboprops. At the same time, Japan Airlines (JAL) ordered a 50-seat CRJ200 regional jet for its regional subsidiary J-Air. One of the All Nippon Q300s represents the conversion of an option and, with the new order, will take the carrier’s Dash 8 fleet to five. JAL has now ordered five CRJ200s and holds options for two more, with J-Air having so far taken delivery of two.

AA2002 proved an auspicious occasion for Avions de Transport Regional (ATR), the only Western manufacturer so far to resist the dash into regional jets. It announced its first new aircraft sale this year, with Air Tahiti buying a 68-seat ATR
72-500. So far this year the French-Italian company has also sold eight used twin turboprops.

In the regional section of AA2002 exhibits, the main novelty was provided by the prototype of China’s MA60 twin turboprop, built by Xian Aircraft. Two years ago at  AA2000, the aircraft had appeared in humble model form, but was back as a full flying debutante this year.

Powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW127 turboprops, the 60-seat MA60 cruises at 248 kt and has a maximum payload range of almost 650 nm. The new aircraft is essentially a Westernized, stretched development of Xian’s earlier Yunshuji 7, which was itself derived from a Chinese version of Russia’s Antonov An-24. The P&WC turboprops have replaced the Chinese Dongan WJ5AI engines.

In July, P&WC is to begin engine tuition courses at its Chinese customer-training center in Beijing. The facility is close to the engine maker’s new spare parts warehouse in the Chinese capital.

Meanwhile, Harbin Aircraft Manufacturing Corp., which like Xian is a subsidiary of the Aviation Industries of China group, announced that its new Y-12E twin-turboprop utility aircraft has just completed Chinese certification. The 19-seater is powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-135A engines driving Hartzell four-blade propellers.

From Russia’s Antonov came a new An-38-100 twin turboprop. In fact, as is now the way in the Byzantine structure of the former Soviet Union’s aerospace industry, the aircraft in question was actually built by the Sukhoi design bureau’s NAPO factory in Novosibirsk in central Siberia and was being marketed at the show by the country’s Rosoboronexport arms sales agency.

In the Asia/Pacific marketplace, the An-38 is being offered as both a 27-seat commuter transport and as a special-mission platform to take advantage of its ability to operate into short, semi-prepared landing strips. The Westernized An-38 is offered for $4.4 million complete with Honeywell TPE331-14GR801 engines, Hartzell propellers and a Bendix/ King avionics suite. It is due to undergo some operational trials in Vietnam later this year with a view to prospective sales in the southeast Asian country.

Embraer Shows its Military Side

Breaking a recent pattern on the international airshow circuit, Brazilian regional jet builder Embraer did not unveil a high-profile order for its ERJ family of aircraft, including the new Embraer 170, which made its first flight the week before AA2002 on February 19. Instead, it used the Singapore show as the stage to officially launch its new Super Tucano, an advanced turboprop trainer/light attack aircraft.

Two prototypes of the high-performance turboprop single have so far completed about 650 hr of flight testing. Another 200 to 300 hr are expected to be required before serial production can begin. In December next year the first Super Tucano is due to be delivered to the Brazilian air force, which has ordered 76 and holds options for 23 more.

Embraer also announced the appointment of Hawker Pacific as a factory-authorized maintenance and service provider for its aircraft throughout Australasia and southeast Asia. It also named Jet Aviation’s Dusseldorf, Germany and Biggin Hill, UK facilities as support centers for the Legacy, a business jet derivative of the ERJ-135.

Frederico Curado, Embraer’s v-p of airline marketing, told a press conference that it now expects to sell around 4,000 aircraft over the next decade–down 20 percent from its earlier target of 5,000. Of the revised total, the manufacturer is projected to sell 500 aircraft in Asia over this period, with half of them going to Chinese operators.

Fairchild Dornier promoted its new 728-200 regional jet to Asia/Pacific airlines that are now looking at alternative equipment to serve relatively long but thin routes. With a range of 1,800 nm, the 70-seater will be able to fly 400 nm further than the 728-100. The 728-100 was set for a March 21 rollout at the manufacturer’s Oberpfaffenhofen factory near Munich, Germany, and is due to enter service in 2004.

Business Aviation Touches Down in Asia

Bombardier’s new Flexjet Asia executive charter program started operating on February 22, just four days before the opening of Asian Aerospace 2002. Once the show was open, the manufacturer announced that Singapore Technologies’ Pacific Flight Services subsidiary and ExecuJet Australia have been added to the team of operating partners, which also include Shandong Airlines Rainbow Jet of China, Subic International Air Charter of the Philippines and Jet Asia of Macau. All providers offer an all-Bombardier fleet currently consisting of the Learjet 31A, 45 and 60, and the Challenger 601-3R and 604.

Also announced at AA 2002 was the sale of two new Learjet 45s to Singapore Airlines for advanced pilot training. The carrier already operates 10 Learjets in its training fleet, including four 45s and six 31As. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific has also recently ordered a Learjet 45 for flight training and has taken an option on a second aircraft.

Mike Fahey, international sales director for Asia/Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, said Bombardier had a “banner year” for Asia/Pacific aircraft sales last year. In his view, he forecasts potential for orders totalling as many as 110 new business jets in the region over the next five years.

The company has made more than a dozen new sales in the Asia/Pacific region over the past 12 months and now has 58 business aircraft operational in that part of the world. One of these aircraft is a Hong Kong-based Global Express that Jet Aviation has recently started offering to the charter market under a management contract with the aircraft’s owner.

Bombardier also used Asian Aerospace 2002 to promote its just-launched Global 5000 business jet–a smaller, shorter-range version of the Global Express. To date, the manufacturer has received letters of intent for 15 of the new model.

Gulfstream Aerospace announced its first sale in China, with a $60 million order from Hainan Airlines for three super-midsize Gulfstream 200s  for ad hoc charter work. The aircraft, to be operated by Hainan’s Beijing-based subsidiary Deer Jet, will be delivered between this fall and next spring. The company also operates a pair of new Agusta A109 Powers.

The G200s will be supported by authorized service center Metrojet in Hong Kong. Last year Gulfstream entered into a charter partnership with Metrojet, basing a GIV in Hong Kong in the hope of stimulating interest in business aircraft in the Asia/Pacific region.

Formerly known as the Galaxy, the G200 can fly nonstop from Tokyo to Singapore, Berlin or Delhi. The smaller G100 (formerly the Astra SPX) can fly nonstop between Singapore and Beijing.

On the eve of the show, Gulfstream gave Rolls-Royce an order for up to 600 upgraded BR710 engines for the new GV-SP. The engines, half of which are on firm order, are to be delivered over a 10-year period.

Cessna reported it has continued to expand its presence in the Asia/Pacific marketplace with the recent acquisition of Citistate Aviation in Australia. The facility at Sydney’s Bankstown airport has been renamed Cessna Pacific and provides technical support for most Cessna products. Unlike the 10 other Citation service centers around the world, which deal only with business jets, Cessna Pacific also supports and sells the company’s family of piston singles and the single-turboprop Caravan.

Recent Asia/Pacific sales success for Cessna came with the delivery late last year of a new Citation X to the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC). The high-speed  business jet is being used for navaid calibration flights and for government VIP transportation.

Meanwhile, a pair of Chinese airlines have taken delivery of five Caravans, with three more to be delivered this year. Jinan-based Shandong Airlines has already received three Caravan amphibians and a Grand Caravan. Last month it was set to receive another float-equipped Grand Caravan. Shanyang-based China Northern Airlines is using the first of its Grand Caravans for agricultural support and passenger transportation and will receive two more this summer.

During the show, Cessna disclosed it is evaluating the UH-5000 head-up display from Flight Visions and Universal Avionics for the Citation X. Flight Visions is scheduled to build a mockup of the HUD’s overhead projector for evaluations in a Citation X cockpit to determine whether the unit will fit in the relatively small space available, after which hardware evaluations could begin.

Separately, Jet Aviation’s Singapore facility has recently been approved by CAAC to support Chinese-registered Citation IIs and VIIs. It has also been cleared by the Hong Kong authorities to work on Hong Kong-registered Global Expresses. The Jet Aviation facility has made an agreement with Bombardier to perform reduced vertical separation minimum modifications on all Learjet 31s, 35s and 36s.

Ibis Aerospace, the joint venture between Taiwan’s Aerospace Industries Development Corp. and Aero Vodochody of the Czech Republic, confirmed that it expects to complete certification of its Ae270 single-engine turboprop utility aircraft this summer. According to the manufacturer’s sales director for Asia, Shaun Huang, deliveries will begin by year-end. So far, Ibis claims orders for 69 Ae270s, including six headed for Australia. Ibis is now looking to appoint distributors in India, China and southeast Asia.

Dassault Aviation and ST Aerospace Systems signed a memorandum of understanding for the Singapore Technologies subsidiary to become an authorized service center for Falcon 900 and 2000 components. The agreement also calls for the maintenance of flight-control sys- tems for both the Falcons and the Rafale fighter.

Separately, Dassault Falcon Jet announced that its Teterboro, N.J. facility has
just been approved for ISO 9000/2000 quality-assurance certification. The company’s Little Rock, Ark. completions center achieved the same status last May.

During Asian Aerospace 2002, Boeing Business Jets declared its intention to
go after new-generation government and head-of-state transport acquisitions. The company, which displayed a BBJ from its Boeing NetJets fractional-ownership fleet in Singapore, has estimated that more than half the worldwide fleet of around 200 of these aircraft is now more than 20 years old and that almost a quarter of the total are more than 30 years old. Thomas Lindberg has been appointed to lead the new Boeing government and military sales division.

Less than two years after starting to build landing gear at its Singapore factory, Messier-Dowty has recently hired 100 more employees there to step up landing gear production for the Hawker 800XP, Gulfstream V, Global Express, Dash 8 and Airbus A320.

Helicopters

Joint operators East Asia Airlines and Helicopters Hong Kong placed a deposit for a Sikorsky S-92 helicopter during Asian Aerospace 2002. They intend to use the
19-seater for their scheduled passenger services between Hong Kong and Macau– adding to the four S-76C+s that they currently operate on the route.

Meanwhile, Sikorsky and China’s Shanghai Little Eagle Science & Technology Co have agreed to form a new private manufacturing company called Shanghai Sikorsky Helicopter Co. Initially, the new joint venture will build piston-powered Schweizer 300C and 300CB helicopters under license from Schweizer of Elmira, N.Y. The deal still awaits approval by Chinese authorities, with Shanghai Little Engine set to take a 51-percent stake in the venture.

MD Helicopters was able to announce the first sale of an Explorer in China, with Hangzhou-based Zhejiang Leasing signing for one of the twin-engine models. Starting this fall, the Guangdong General Aviation Co., which is also now operating the first MD 600N in China, is to lease the Explorer from Zhejiang for charter flights.

Eurocopter marked the 25th anniversary of its permanent presence in Singapore by demonstrating the EC 120B Colibri in the daily flying display at Asian Aerospace 2002.

Other rotorcraft makers at the show included Bell, which was highlighting upgrades for its venerable UH-1 Huey military helicopter. This included a working cockpit demonstrator of its AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopter. The company also marked the recent delivery of a new Bell 412EP model to Pelita Air Service of Indonesia.

Kaman Aerospace Corp.’s new president, Joseph Lubenstein, told airshow visitors that the company intends to make its single-seat K-Max external-lift helicopter more versatile and affordable. For instance, it is seeking to extend its potential use for applications such as firefighting and drugs interdiction.

Another firefighting platform was on show in Singapore in the shape of Bombardier’s CL-415. The water bomber was on the second leg of a 10-country sales demonstration tour of the Asia/Pacific region when it arrived at Singapore Changi Airport.

French helicopter engine manufacturer Turbomeca has confirmed that it is to acquire a majority stake in South Africa’s Denel Airmotive. The new Turbomeca Africa operation will be a service center for Turbomeca engines throughout Africa and will also make engine parts for Turbomeca, as well as General Electric, Rolls-Royce and Volvo.    

Avionics

Seattle, Wash.-based Korry Electronics introduced a dedicated uplink display for controller/pilot datalink communications at the show. The unit on display featured a monochrome LED display and four soft keys and is designed for installation on the cockpit glareshield.

The UK’s Chelton Flight Systems at AA2002 demonstrated its EFIS-2000 electronic flight information system with its unique overlay of 3-D terrain, obstructions and highway-in-the-sky navigation symbology. The company has been chosen by the FAA to provide up to 100 shipsets for its Alaska Capstone Program to test the enabling technologies for Free Flight.

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